Copycat Olive Garden Meatballs Parmesan

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Olive Garden Meatballs are tender and flavorful, topped with a gooey Italian cheese blend and crunchy seasoned breadcrumbs. Don’t forget the homemade marinara! It comes together in just 20 minutes while the meatballs are in the oven. Bake everything together for an incredible appetizer or the start of a hearty meal.

Titled Image: Olive Garden Meatballs Parmesan


Olive Garden Meatballs

Nothing says comfort food like a plate of warm, juicy meatballs — what else do you expect from The Slow Roasted Italian?

While these Olive Garden meatballs are listed on the menu as an appetizer, my copycat version makes an excellent dinner as well.

Smothered in cheese and toasted breadcrumbs, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this dish.

This recipe makes enough for two appetizer servings, so if you’re hosting a crowd, you may want to try my slow cooker recipe instead.

You can always add the cheese and breadcrumbs if you don’t want to miss out on that flavor.

Or, why not put the cheese inside each bite? That’s exactly what my cheese-stuffed version is for!

ingredients for copycat olive garden meatballs parmigiana

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Ground Meat – I’m using a mixture of beef and pork for my Olive Garden meatball recipe.

    Stick with a leaner blend of beef (80/20 is best) since there’s plenty of fat in the pork already.

    And if you prefer a lighter version, make your Olive Garden meatballs with ground turkey instead!
  • Cheese – Freshly grated parmesan adds a nutty flavor to the meatballs, while mozzarella and Italian cheeses offer a great mix of meltiness and flavor to the final dish.

    I love a five-cheese Italian blend of mozzarella, provolone, Asiago, Romano, and Parmesan for the topping.
  • Italian Breadcrumbs – These go in the meat mixture and on top of the whole meatballs parmigiana Olive Garden copycat dish!

    Make an easy homemade version by mixing 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning with 1 cup plain breadcrumbs.
  • Canned Tomatoes – Use crushed for a smoother sauce, or grab diced tomatoes if you prefer a chunkier texture.

    If using San Marzano tomatoes, you can likely skip the added sugar in this recipe for Olive Garden meatballs.
  • Seasonings – You’ll need salt, black pepper, and dried oregano for both the meatballs and marinara sauce.

    Add dried basil to the sauce as well, plus fresh parsley in the meat mixture and as a garnish.

    There’s quite a difference in flavor when using fresh parsley, but if you need to use dried there too, reduce the amount to one-third of what is listed.
shaped meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet

Tips and Tricks for Perfecting This Olive Garden Meatball Recipe

  • A gentle touch is key for tender, juicy results.

Mix all of the ingredients slowly and gently, making sure not to overwork the ground meat.

Then, handle the mixture as lightly as possible when forming the balls, and don’t compact them too tight.

Overworked or compacted meatballs will always come out tough and dry.

If you need help smoothing out the rounds, coat your hands in water or a little bit of olive oil before rolling.

  • Simmer marinara for at least 20 minutes.

It takes time for all of those flavors to meld together! Longer simmering is even better to really enhance the flavor of the final sauce

  • Don’t forget to reduce the oven temperature!

You’ll start the oven at 400°F to ensure the Olive Garden meatballs are perfected browned and cooked through.

Then, reduce to 350°F while you spoon them over the marinara and top with shredded cheese and breadcrumbs. 

The lower temperature will get everything melty and bubbly without burning the topping, plus it won’t overcook the meatballs or dry them out.

  • Wait a few minutes before serving.

Give the dish about 5 minutes to rest, which allows the juices to redistribute and prevents the melted cheese from simply sliding off onto the pan.

tomato sauce in a skillet

Prep Ahead

  • Chop parsley
  • Mince garlic
  • Shred cheese if fresh

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Baking Sheets lined with parchment paper – Used for anything from cookies to roasting, a good baking pan will last for years.
  • Large Bowl – This one is my go-to!
  • Saucepan for the homemade marinara, plus a dry Skillet for toasting breadcrumbs for the topping
  • Cookie Scoops – Great for meatballs, cookies, ice cream, and portioning out leftovers. I’ve had this set for years and use them all the time.
meatballs placed in skillet full of tomato sauce

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy meatballs Parmigiana like Olive Garden, with toasted breadcrumbs and freshly chopped parsley on top!

They make a delicious appetizer — all you need are some toothpicks.

Create a full spread with other favorites like Lasagna Fritta, fried ravioli, or spinach artichoke dip. Or, spoon everything into sandwich rolls for a tasty meatball sub.

You can also serve them over spaghetti or with mashed potatoes for a hearty meal.

Or, keep it light with a big bowl of crisp salad and creamy Italian dressing. Don’t forget the breadsticks!

shredded cheese placed on meatballs in a skillet

Storing and Reheating Meatballs Parmigiana Olive Garden Copycat

Once cooled, transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. You can also freeze the dish for up to 3 months.

The easiest way to reheat this Olive Garden meatball recipe is on the stove. Just simmer everything together until warmed through!

Or, return the dish to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350° until everything is tender, melted, and bubbly again.

Recipe for Olive Garden Meatballs FAQ

Do I have to use pork in this recipe for Olive Garden meatballs?

Ground pork adds richness and flavor to the meat mixture, but it’s not required. You can substitute extra ground beef or use a leaner meat like ground turkey for the entire batch.

If you do opt for all ground beef, I suggest adding a little bit of whole milk to the ground meat mixture. Not only will it help replace that richness, but it will keep your Olive Garden meatballs nice and moist.

Should you pan sear meatballs before baking them?

This step isn’t necessary for this Olive Garden meatball recipe, since we’re cooking the meatballs alone before adding the sauce and toppings.

At a higher temperature of 400°F in the oven, you can brown them all at once in just 20-25 minutes instead of searing in batches on the stove.

How do you know when meatballs are done?

Each meatball should be browned on the outside and firm to the touch, with no pink in the middle. To be sure, you can check the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer — it should reach at least 160°F in the center.

copycat olive garden meatball on a spoon

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close up of olive garden meatball recipe

closeup of olive garden meatballs

Copycat Olive Garden Meatballs Parmesan

Donna Elick
Savory Olive Garden Meatballs, baked with homemade marinara, five Italian cheeses, and toasted breadcrumbs, are the ultimate party appetizer!
5 stars from 3 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Method Oven
Servings 4 -5


For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef, 80/20 mix for best results
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional for a spicy kick

For the Marinara Sauce:

  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.
  • In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, minced garlic, egg, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes. Mix until well combined but do not overmix.
  • Roll the meat mixture into 2.5-inch balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until they’re browned and cooked through.
  • While the meatballs are baking, prepare the marinara sauce. In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, dried basil, and oregano to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the meatballs are done, remove them from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F (175°C).
  • In an oven-proof dish, spread a layer of the marinara sauce. Place the baked meatballs on top of the sauce.
  • Spoon some marinara sauce over each meatball, then top with the shredded mozzarella and Italian cheese blend.
  • Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • While the cheese is melting, toast 1/4 cup of Italian breadcrumbs in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  • Remove the meatballs from the oven, sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and chopped fresh parsley.
  • Serve hot as an appetizer and enjoy your homemade Copycat Olive Garden Meatballs Parmigiana!

Donna’s Notes

For a lighter version, you can use ground turkey instead of beef and pork.
Tip: don’t compact the meatballs too tightly, as this can make them tough.
Toasting the breadcrumbs before topping adds a delightful crunch and flavor.
Fresh herbs can make a significant difference in flavor, so use them whenever available.
Letting the meatballs rest for a few minutes after baking will help redistribute the juices.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 669cal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 1758mg | Sugar: 9g | Fiber: 5g | Calcium: 367mg | Iron: 6mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Olive Garden Meatballs Parmesan - PIN

Originally published February 2024

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  1. 5 stars
    this recipe is an absolute game-changer! Made it for dinner tonight, and it was a hit with the whole family. Thanks, Donna and Chad from The Slow Roasted Italian for this gem.

  2. 5 stars
    i followed donna’s recipe to the letter, and it turned out amazing! The meatballs were so juicy and flavorful, and the marinara sauce was perfect. I added a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the meatball mixture for an extra depth of flavor, and it was fantastic!

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